Coronation of Vlad and Kalysa

Friday night, Livia, Girard, Guenievre, and I vanned up to Stierbach for the Coronation of their new Majesties Atlantia, Vlad and Kalysa (So when you get asked who you fight for, remember this, for the next six months at least).

King Vlad, being of a warlike countenance, asked that instead of the traditional tournaments that are held to honor the new King and Queen, that both the armored and the rapier lists fight small unit melees, that his armies may be better prepared for Gulf Wars (and, dammit, I am going this time!).

 

The Setup

The plan was to have five-man melee teams.  Unless the team contained a provost (or knight on the armored field).  Then the team could only have three fighters, though all three could be provosts.  The format would be a bearpit with no limit (so, stay in as long as you can, rather than “three wins and retire”).

This led to some pretty obvious results: A couple of teams of all provosts, a couple of teams of top-end free scholars.  I remember when I was a scholar, being resentful that I ended up on kind of the “bottom tier” teams all the time, and never got to taste victory.  I feel kind of bad that, this time around, I said “fuck it” and went for glory.  More on that later.  On the other hand, I also feel like I’ve paid my dues.

An additional twist, on the rapier field, was that wounds would be retained.  That was an evil, and awesome, twist.  It added on a whole new layer of strategy.  “We’re coming up against a three-provost team, and next in line is also a three-provost.  We’ve got to survive this one not just with one or two fighters still standing, but with our team intact to take on the next team.”  Clever clever.  Of course, it also meant that you could be the team right behind two three-provost teams, let them sap each other out, come in, clean up the mess, and stand easy on the field for the next couple of rounds.

The bearpit format also provided a bonus for fitness and endurance.  It was a hot damn day.  After two fights, it didn’t matter if you still had five people on the field if they were all sucking wind.  Gassed out fighters were just as useless as dead fighters.

On the armored field, there was no wounds retained, and they permitted subs.  This led to one team setting up with three dukes and five unbelts to sub-in, so they could take the field with the three dukes, sub in the unbelts either as a batch or one or two at a time, and reduce the demand on their endurance.  Having said elsewhere on this blog that I am willing to act within all stated limitations, and consider un-stated limitations not to exist, I can’t really object to this sort of stretching of a loophole.  But still, 5 man team or 3 man team.  Not 8 man team.  Really, I do think that was kind of a stated limitation.  And I will say so to the dukes involved just as soon as I have five years to work my ass off on a pell.

 

Here be Stupid Questions

In the same place where I mentioned my willingness to exploit loopholes, I also objected to asking stupid questions.  It is a waste of time for us all standing in the sun, and it is a great way to make the fighting less enjoyable. 

Nonetheless, they were asked.  “Is there DFB?”  “No”.  That would later come back to cost me an unnecessary death when I double-killed with Marcellus rather than simply DFB’ing him.  “Is there knee-walking for engagement?” also “No”, though considering the amount of horse-poop in the field I wouldn’t have knee-walked anyway.  There were a couple of others, all-in-all worthless.

I’ll say it again: Check the fucking rules.  If it’s allowed in the rules, it’s allowed.  If the marshal doesn’t say it’s not allowed, it’s allowed.  If all else fails, resort to Pennsic Standard.  That’s where all our melee training pays off, that’s the standard we should train to.  (Of course, if Pennsic standard and Atlantian rules conflict, the rules win)  And seriously keep your fucking mouths shut and let’s go fight.  I do not respect people who waste everybody’s time in this way.

 

Considerations in a 5-on-3, or a 3-on-5 scenario

In a 5 on 3 situation, there is no reason the 5 should lose.  Numerical superiority should always win.  Assuming the three fighters and the five fighters have even skill (or the three have more skill), two pairs of fighters mob one of the enemy each, and the fifth fighter keeps the third enemy occupied long enough for the other four to do their jobs and come to his assistance.  Every single time.

If the three fighters are not all of a high skill level, then 3 of the 5 can mob the most skilled while everybody else keeps each other busy.

Again, no reason the five should ever lose.

So I spent last week thinking what I, were I on the three-man team, would do.  Basically, it would require shifting engagement so as to break up the pairs, the one-on-one taking on half of another pair, allowing that one to shift to the next pair, and leaving the third one to drop his singular opponent and then come to the aid of his fellows.  Or, generally, they could all just run amok and catch their enemy flatfooted.  Either has an equal success rate.

The next step was figuring out how to prevent this, and it comes to aggressively engaging while spread apart so that your target can’t shift engagements.  Can you tell I have a bit of downtime at work, sometimes?  Like in telecons, when I don’t get up and fence with the wall.  Then it was time to implement.

 

Numerical Superiority

Freddie approached me about joining a team with him, his lady Alice, Kenji, and Armand (three Free Scholars and one scholar who fights as well as any FS).  And I said, I believe, “Hell yes”.  This was pretty much the best five-man team that could be put together from anybody in attendance that day, and would really have no excuse for not proving to be the best team on the field.  But we needed a name.

I suggested “Numerical Superiority”.  If we should win a bout, it would then be “Numerical Superiority beats [insert team].”  Yeah, just driving home the point a bit more each time (And Alric the Mad, marshalling for the day, obligingly announced the results exactly that way.  Thanks, brother!  PS, you should all take his class on fighting case at Fall University).

Freddie and Alice also loaned me one of their 45” Darkwoods for the day.  That was a beautiful sword, lighter and balanced better than my 40”.  Costs $10 per inch, but might almost be worth it if I ever win the lottery.  I’d even trade in a couple of my swords to finance it.  And a couple of people, who have fought me often enough to know my range within an inch, were taken by surprise during the day, though it also resulted in a couple of hard hits from my unfamiliarity with the weapon.

 

The Day went Swimmingly

It went exactly as expected.  We were able to survive mostly in-tact against the provost triplets when we were at full strength, and hold the field for 3-5 rounds each time before attrition ended us.  We ended up with 18 wins, victory, and AWESOME HATS.  Seriously awesome.  I can haz reversible Cossack hat?  Yes I can!  One side is purple, the other side is gold.  It’s a cunning hat.  Right up there with my black-and-gold “Best Loser” fighting cape as my favorite prizes.

 

The Passata Soto

I also, so I am told, had the prettiest shot of the day.  I think we’ve established that I have no shame or humility, and am prey to my ego, so I may just go ahead and agree.  Of the day, now mind you, not of the week, month, or year, just the prettiest shot of the day.

We’d killed four out of our five opponents, and had just one left to finish off.  He was a tall guy, fighting two long rapiers.  He was circling us slowly as we maintained our grouping.  Or, at least, we were doing so right up until I stepped out of line and advanced out to meet him.

He obligingly moved to meet me, and I one-shotted him with a passata soto (well, okay, a ¾ passata soto.  I didn’t shoot my rear leg out, just dropped to the left knee) as he started to take his guard.

I received many compliments, and there was much exclamation about how pretty it was.  Freddie said it was a 1-in-a-thousand.  I’ll admit it was pretty, but I would expect I and any other competent fencer can do it in the same situation, two times out of three.  He asked if I’d do pickups with him later, and walk him through what happened.  I agreed, but he had gone by the time the melee was done (and I’d gotten in some C&T).  So I’ll put my thoughts out here and maybe he’ll find them.

 

The Post-Mortem

The encounter was all about the three fundamentals of combat: tempo, measure, and judgment.

The fencer was moving at an even walking pace as he circled us, approximately a step per second.  I’ll note that, if you’re going to circle your enemy, this is not an effective way to isolate one.  You’re moving way too slow, allowing them all the time they need to shift position and keep you where they want you.  Had he been running, I doubt I would have tried it (though, maybe…).  He didn’t change his pace as he closed with me.  His rhythm was firmly dictated, to himself, and out in full view for us.

While walking, he had been holding his swords tip up, his hands at waist level.  This gave the obvious opening of “everything below his waist”.  When he arrived in range, he began to take up his guard.  This gave me a tempo in which to strike.  He would have to complete the motion of taking his guard before he could counter-strike.  Most beginning to intermediate fighters have a tendency to do this same thing: Move to range, take up their guard, begin to engage the enemy.  That’s two whole steps to complete before they can even start considering a shot.  One of the most effective skills, then, is to be able to fire on the fly, in the time in which they’re taking up their guard and displaying all their holes to you.  For your part, either be in guard before you move in to range, or be able to fight without assuming a guard first.  So that’s tempo.

While circling us, he had been keeping an even distance.  You could have tracked him like a ballistic missile.  I was able to move out a few steps and be where he’d end up, so I had time to get in guard while he arrived at my location.  When circling, shift your direction and your rhythm, feinting to one side or the other, or away or forward, to throw your enemy off and breakup their cohesion.

Also, I had the added advantage of the 45”.  The guy was tall, as I say, and fighting with long blades.  He’d been making much use of his range all day.  But I was pretty sure he hadn’t fully appreciated my range, and he obliged me by stepping into it before starting to take his guard.  Measure.

When I was a scholar, I wondered “How can people think ‘Oh, now I shall throw a Passata Soto as I turn my hand to prime’ or some shit like that in the middle of a fight?”  Now, of course, I realize that’s not at all what happens.  Having trained the motions for the actions, they become automatic responses to a thought.

My thought in the encounter was “His swords are up, his belly’s exposed, I need to lunge low and duck under his swords”.  So I lunged forward, ducked, and braced on the ground with my left hand.  The result was the ¾ Passata Soto.

So, like I say, with an understanding of tempo and measure, and having drilled enough that plan leads directly to motion without having to figure out the steps in between, which is basically the definition of the abilities of a competent fencer, this should have happened two out of three times.  With one time reserved for the unexpected.

Still, it was DAMN pretty.  Damn pretty.  And I got a cunning hat.

 

Cut and Thrust

Also on Saturday, there was a cut and thrust practice, with 8 fighters authorizing C&T (including Dukes Val and Ragnarr).  It was pretty damn spiff.  I got out and sparred with Giacomo, first, and basically was confirmed in my suspicions: This isn’t going to be “Hit the mother fucker as hard as you can”.  Even Giacomo, who is supposedly just behind Alan at the top of the calibration scale, only left one bruise on me.  I get worse in a regular fencing practice.  Since we’re going for speed, not power, the cuts are delivered with a tap, percussive but not lastingly painful.

Saturday was mostly about experimentation for me, making sure I wanted to do it and making sure my armor was sufficient without being excessive (demi-gauntlet, small motorcycle knees for my elbow and forearm protection, and… er… let’s not talk about the back of my head just yet).  I like all my arm protection, and didn’t take any shots to my unprotected upper-arms that made me want pauldrons.  I did take a shot to the quad head next to my kneecap.  It wasn’t a bad shot, but the hurt lasted and hampered my knee’s functionality for the rest of the day, and today it’s got a bruise.  So, it turns out that little bit of muscle is important.  I’ve got rollerblading knees that I wore for the rest of the time I was doing C&T, and those work great.

So, for head pro I did a little bit of slow work with Jimmy in my mask.  It has the obvious problem of not having any back of the head protection, but it’s Triplette’s top-end mask and I’m fairly confident it will stand up to whatever beating gets thrown at it.  I borrowed Kynny’s fencing helm for fast-work, and it had some drawbacks.  The first was the visor falling down as I was putting it on and cutting my nose.  The second was the limited eyesight.  And then it just got hot, stuffy, and claustrophobic.  I think I’ll stick to my mask and rig an armor plate, but I know that most C&T fighters have gone to full helm, and I’m guessing I will, too, someday.  However, MK Armory has shut its doors, so I can’t get one of their Norman conical fencing helms (which would have been so fucking metal with my MS I.33 rig).  Ice Falcon may have something, or one of the others, or I may just get myself an “Indian Armory” Norman conical, take it over to Johann, and have him slap the perf plate on it.

Johann’s also promised me my sword by MATO, so I’m going to authorize C&T at WotW and then see if I can’t get marshallated in it, too, so we can have it at Thursday practice.

 

Overall, a good day of fighting.  And I got an awesome hat.

2 comments to Coronation of Vlad and Kalysa

  • Matheu

    For your CnT rig you could make a leather helm to fit over top of your triplette mask I believe vortigern has something in that vein. although the indian armory idea is cost effective 😉 and still looks nice.

  • Yeah, Roz and I are gonna pattern an over-engineered back-of-the-head rig (lots of overlap, extra padding, etc) until I’ve got the 250 for a Marco Borromei helm.

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